December 31, 2007

Bad News for the Cowboys, Colts, Steelers, Jags, Bucs, Giants and Seahawks: Teams that drop their last regular season game almost never win the Super Bowl; the all-time record, in fact, is 34-7 for the future champion, a winning percentage slightly over .829. Over a sixteen game schedule, that would be a little better than a 13-3 record. The exceptions are the 1967 Packers (who dropped their last two games), the '69 Chiefs, '75 Steelers, '88 Niners, '91 Skins, '94 Niners, and the '99 Rams. Of those teams, only the '67 Packers and '88 Frisco lost at home, and only Green Bay, Washington and St. Louis lost to non-playoff teams. The '88 49'ers are the only team to have lost to a team needing a win to make the playoffs.

In all regular season games, the winning percentage for the future Super Bowl winner is .810, or just under 13 wins a season. In other words, the last game of the season is a slightly better indicator of who will win the Super Bowl than, say, any other game of the regular season, but I suspect that differential will be all but wiped out if the Pats run the table undefeated. Happy New Year.

December 29, 2007

SC Law Grad (Class of '88) Makes Good: And it's about time, too. One of the best people I knew at law school, Rick Neuheisel had the uncanny ability to overcome all-night bar-hopping and other assorted vices shared by the other members of my Property and Criminal Law classes, and always beat back the Socratic pestering of our professors. Forget about the trivial violations at Colorado and the ludicrous excuse that UDub used to fire him (for participating in an NCAA basketball pool !!); the guy can coach, he's smart, and he always understands that no matter what question is on the final, you can never overlook the part about the Antichrist.

December 28, 2007

Prof. Krugman, on why vituperative partisan fights are good things:
I like to remind people who long for bipartisanship that FDR's drive to create Social Security was as divisive as Bush's attempt to dismantle it. And we got Social Security because FDR wasn't afraid of division. In his great Madison Square Garden speech, he declared of the forces of "organized money": "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."
There are several things worth noting about the above passage. First, it can hardly be said that President Bush's weak and ineffectual attempt to privatize Social Security in 2005 was "divisive," since it quickly collapsed for non-support, even within his own party. It hardly seems like a good endorsement of the strategy when the best example you can come up with for avoiding bipartisan solutions is a policy proposal that was defeated so easily.

Second, FDR could afford a bitter partisan battle when he proposed the Social Security Act of 1935; his party controlled both houses of Congress by overwhelming margins (319-102 in the House, and 69-25 in the Senate), and the measure passed with little opposition (372-33 in the House, and 77-6 in the Senate). No matter who the next President is, he will not likely have majorities even half that large in the Congress, or come close to having enough votes to invoke cloture in the Senate, for that matter.

Lastly, the MSG speech cited above was not from the "divisive" Social Security debate in 1935, but from his reelection campaign the following year. Selectively omitted in the Salon Slate column was this Obamaesque passage towards the end:
Aside from this phase of it, I prefer to remember this campaign not as bitter but only as hard-fought. There should be no bitterness or hate where the sole thought is the welfare of the United States of America. No man can occupy the office of President without realizing that he is President of all the people.
It's always a foolish thing to use FDR as a role model for the use of vicious partisanship. His campaign in 1932 was geared towards blurring distinctions and vague generalities, with the awareness that simply being the principal opponent of Herbert Hoover would be enough to ensure victory. Most of his victories in his first Administration were with Republican support, including the Social Security Act of 1935 (a point that he also alluded to in the MSG speech). Reaching across the aisle to pursue progressive goals was not merely limited to domestic issues; his War Cabinet included several Republicans, including their Vice Presidential nominee from 1936, and he even went so far as to enlist the support of his opponent from 1940, Wendell Willkie, in backing the Lend-Lease Act and related measures in support of America's pre-war build-up.

In short, Roosevelt was a canny politician, willing to take on members of his own party, as well as build coalitions with Republicans and conservatives when it served his purpose. Because of that, when he did go on the offensive against "economic royalists" and the "forces of organized money," he did so knowing he had the backing of the broad center of public opinion. I don't know if Obama is made of similar stuff, but his rhetorical style is certainly not inconsistent with the Father of the New Deal, nor is his belief that excluding half the country from the debate is counter-productive to achieving progressive goals.

December 27, 2007

Paging General Otis and Col. McCormick: Did you know that the Republic lacked a "truly partisan media" until Rush Limbaugh came along, in 1988? Me neither....
Always look on the bright side of life... Mr. Kaus notes the accelerating decline in home values, and sees a silver lining:
Are you impressed with a "drop in home values of 6.6% over a year? It doesn't seem like such a big correction, given the dramatic run-up in prices over the last decade or so. ... And don't declining prices make housing more... what's the word? ... affordable? ... This evening NBC Nightly News billboarded a "housing CRISIS." (Link available here.) I thought a "housing crisis" was when people couldn't find housing, not when it got cheaper. (NBC's expert: "It's very, very difficult to find any silver lining." No it's not.)
I like that way of thinking, because, on a personal level, I certainly see a "silver lining" coming out of all this, in the way of more clients visiting my office. I suppose morticians get the same feeling every time there's a natural disaster; with bankruptcy lawyers, it's the thought of a member of the Bush family in the White House that gives us some serious wood.

For prospective homeowners looking for bargains, however, I don't think the declines we've seen to date are steep enough either to entice them into making an investment or to lure them into establishing a homestead for their families. And since so much of the economy's growth in the past decade has been the result of people being able to invest their home's equity, the current squeeze isn't a zero-sum game, where a homeowner's loss is a potential home buyer's gain; a 6.1% deflation in home values* means that there is 6.1% less money to pay off other debts, which means more defaults in other areas, which leads to more creditors losing their investments as well. It also means 6.1% less money will now be invested in the stock market, in construction, in tuition, in tourism, and in other branches of the economy that relied on the money people obtained after refinancing their homes.

But I bet it will mean at least a 6.1% increase in bankruptcy filings....

*Based on the twenty largest metropolitan areas. When focused on the ten largest metro areas, it comes to a 6.7% decline. Yikes.

December 25, 2007

There's a spirited debate going on here over the historic racist legacy of the Democratic Party, and the more recent dominance by the GOP in the South. The Bartlett position, as I understand it, is that the Democratic Party for many years relied on the support of avowed racists in building its electoral dominance after 1930, and was for many years before that the partisan bulwark of white supremacy in the South. Such views were not the sole province of Southern rednecks, either; non-Southerners, like FDR, Woodrow Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, and the editorial board of the New York Times, circa 1900, expressed views about the participation of non-whites in our political system that would, under any definition, be considered vile.

Of course, such positions were also shared by Republican officeholders of that same period. White politicians were a lot more racist back then, largely because white voters in both the North and South were a lot more racist, and it wasn't unusual for a political figure to try to court both blacks and bigots in the same election, or to zig-zag between different forms of populism, one of which embraced interracial harmony against the plutocrats who sought to divide the oppressed masses by skin color, versus another which relied on racial and ethnic stereotypes that would find their fullest expression in Central Europe in the 1930's and '40's.

It would not be hard to cherry-pick from the collected quotations of such luminaries as Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, William McKinley and Calvin Coolidge to find instances where such politicians might have trouble winning votes in Harlem or Oakland today. The complete disenfranchisement of African Americans in the South, as well as the entrenchment of Jim Crow policies, occurred between 1876 and 1932, a period in which the Republican Party controlled the federal government for all but sixteen years. As far back as the Election of 1900, Democratic candidates for President were covertly seeking the votes of Northern African-Americans who had felt spurned by the Republican Party, and W.E.B. DuBois even went so far as to endorse Bryan in the 1908 Election. By the time of the Great Depression, it was inevitable that the party with the strongest political base in the Northern cities was also going to capture the votes of African Americans, and that proved to be the critical reason for the sudden partisan shift in how the descendents of the people freed by the Party of Lincoln became Democrats.

But just as it's false to suggest that the Democrats were the only racist political party in America for much of its history, so to is it false to claim, as Paul Krugman and Matthew Yglesias do, that the post-1968 dominance by the GOP at the national level was caused by its pursuit of a "Southern Strategy" followed by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. One can actually see a decided shift in partisan allegiances dating back to the 1928 election, when Herbert Hoover captured several states in the Deep South against Al Smith. Southern states like Texas, Florida, Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Tennessee were swing states thereafter, and even segregationist Louisiana voted for Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, two years after the President's nominee for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Earl Warren, had helped overturn segregation in public schools.

In fact, Republican hegemony in the South is a much more recent trend, effectively dating back to the 1994 mid-term landslide. Whatever nefarious machinations may have been intended by Kevin Phillips and Lee Atwater, the net result was not immediately apparent. In 1960, JFK squeeked by Richard Nixon in a race that saw the losing Republican candidate win Florida, Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee. Eight years later, Nixon won eighty-two more electoral votes and the election, but only added the Carolinas to his Dixie tally; infinitely more important to his success was winning over former Democratic voters in Illinois, New Jersey and Missouri, states without which Kennedy could not possibly have won in 1960. When it was all said and done, the South was largely a sideshow in that election, as it would be in each Republican victory through 1988.

Even in 1980, the year Reagan famously used the code words "states rights" in the city where Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner had been lynched, the South ended up being Jimmy Carter's most competitive region. Ironically, it has been the reemergence of a new "Solid South" backing the GOP since 1992 that has proved to be most detrimental to the party at the national level. After easily winning four out of five Presidential elections from 1972 to 1988 with a national coalition, Republicans have now lost the popular vote in three of the last four, and have seen their regional bases dwindle to the South and the sparsely populated states of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains. As the 2006 mid-terms show, that's a recipe for long-term political exile. It may be convenient to lay past disappointment for liberals and progressives at the feet of a malevolent racist conspiracy, but the truth is far more complicated.

1. My friends Matt and Emmanuelle depart on the morrow for Washington, DC, where he will take over the editorship of the cool libertarian rag Reason, and she will no doubt seize control of the Beltway media social circle. LA will be the poorer without them, while conscientious political reporters in the Capital shall greet them as liberators. And by all means, purchase Mr. Welch's political biography of John McCain, since it's unlikely the national media's love affair with the "straight-talking" Arizona Senator will distract them into doing anything as banal as analyzing where he actually stands on the issues. Neither a hatchet job nor a hagiography, the book is perfectly timed for the first primaries, where its subject may possibly emerge as the front-runner while the campaigns of Giuliani and Romney implode before our very eyes.

2. At last week's farewell for the couple, I ran into Ken Layne, Welch's former bandmate and partner in crime (as well as the distinguished ex-editor of Sploid, Wonkette, and his own eponymous blog back in the day). Sadly, because he feels that the collection of songs on the second Ken Layne & the Corvids album did not reach his high standards, we should not expect a release date anytime soon. Pity, that; just as any music fan would kill to hear Smile in its original form, warts and all, Transcontinental is a fine, original work, with several songs ("Happy MacKaye" is almost a Peckinpah western set to music, and "Mama Now Don't You Cry" is a truly haunting ballad) already valued members of my IPod fraternity. Hopefully, he'll return to these compositions in the future. [link via, natch, Mr. Welch]

December 24, 2007

Needless to say, however well he does in his bid for the GOP nomination (not to mention his likely third party next November), Ron Paul will be forever remembered as the first Republican Presidential candidate to have denounced Abe Lincoln for fighting a war to rid the South of the Peculiar Institution.
More School of Comedy:

A Rule of Thumb: Sketches that feature Baltic caricatures, teen mandolin players wearing only diapers, lots of blood, and the theme to "Friends" = COMEDY GOLD !!!

December 23, 2007

December 20, 2007

A week late and a dollar short. Scenes from The Last Welch:

More pics to come....

December 18, 2007

Done Deal: The word I got last week at The Last Welch was that Ron Paul was definitely going to run as the Libertarian candidate in the general election, so his hints here aren't that surprising (after all, he was also the party's nominee in 1988). Frankly, I doubt he would take many votes away from Obama.
What Hath Selig Wrought?
If there was any doubt the Democratic-controlled Congress could find ways to embarass the nation even more efficiently than their Republican counterparts, it's this.
Liberal Fascism: I know that the inclination to mock his argument may seem overpowering, but I prefer to treat statements like "The quintessential Liberal Fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore," with the same intellectual firepower that Mr. Goldberg brought to bear when he wrote his magnum opus. To suggest that a female kindergarten teacher who graduated from some East Coast safety school is the "quintessential" Black Shirted thug is ludicrous, when everyone knows that the true symbol of modern fascism is the seventy-year African-American widow living on a fixed-income in Baldwin Hills. I get chills just thinking about Granny....
Mortgage Foreclosure Update: Confused by the manifold measures winding their way through Congress? Here's an idiot's guide to s***pile relief for your troubles, sir....

December 17, 2007

Prof. Kleiman, on the political gifts of the junior Senator from Illinois:
Paul Krugman thinks Barack Obama is "naive" (Gee, where have we heard that word before? Is Krugman still writing his own stuff, or is he just mailing in talking points from Mark Penn?) for thinking that the drug companies and health insurers will play a role in shaping a new national health policy. I would have thought that anyone who thought otherwise was showing a dangerous distance from consensus reality.

But Krugman's real point seems to be that Obama isn't nasty enough to be President: that his agenda of inclusiveness (including even — horrors! — drug companies in the national community) means giving up on serious change. That strikes me as a remarkably un-subtle view for someone of Krugman's sophistication, and can only attribute the error to the fact that Krugman is as committed to his candidate as I am to mine.

To my eye, Obama is super-slick, and part of his slickness is not looking slick: looking, indeed, as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. It's the Reagan trick. To interpret that technique as weakness is a foolish mistake.

If you're going to provoke a fight and want the onlookers on your side, you have to make sure that the other side looks like the aggressor. In undoing the damage of the past eight years, Obama is going to need a fairly free hand to wield the powers of the executive. He can't get that by looking like a power-hungry, revenge-driven would-be tyrant.

By emphasizing unity over conflict, for example, Obama might be able to get a Truth and Reconciliation Commission: or, to put that in English, he might be able to acquire the power, through his nominees on such a commission, to purge the Executive Branch of Bushoids. Can you imagine Hillary getting away with that?

Somehow I doubt that either Krugman or I really has the chops to judge the toughness of a guy who cut his political teeth on the Southside of Chicago. But Obama looks to me like a skilled counter-puncher. His crack at Hillary in the last debate —which must have been impromptu, since he might have anticipated the question but not her intervention — suggests to me he knows how to fight back without looking mean.

You have to love the way the Clintonites are screaming that Obama is unfairly getting away with saying bad things about their candidate, while having the press criticize her as "negative," at the very same time they're complaining that he's not tough enough to take on the Republicans. No one seems to notice the contradiction. A very sharp knife doesn't hurt as much going in, but it does just as much damage.
Ouch !!! Read the whole thing, here.

The argument that the next President will need to conduct a partisan fatwa against the GOP is rather common in the lefty blogosphere, and it's a tone-deaf argument for two reasons. First, the public is recoiling from the Rovian politics that the bloggers seem so intent on aping; much of the unpopularity of the Bush Administration and the GOP is based on precisely that revulsion. The last thing the voters desire is to replace one set of partisan thugs with another, particularly those who whine about having been victims for the last twenty years.

And second, if one desires that the next President actually pursue a progressive agenda, it is incumbent that said policies actually have a chance of being enacted in the first place. Since it is unlikely that the Democrats will increase their partisan edge in the Senate by more than 4-5 seats, and perhaps 10 seats in the House, even under the best case scenario, and since none of the potential nominees has yet to call for anything so radical as the abolition of the filibuster, some degree of compromise will be needed to enact anything. And perhaps even more important than compromise, the next President will have to build coalitions with the other side, allowing them some face-saving gesture for giving in to the progressive tide. That simply can't be done in a vortex of perpetual ideological war.

December 16, 2007

Maybe it's just the past week, but I can't help thinking of HGH when I ponder this season's feel-good story in the NFL....

December 15, 2007

Sometimes the only thing worse than an LA Times sports columnist is an LA Times columnist writing about sports in another section of the paper, as this gem proves. The most treacly form of journalism is the column that expounds on the sociological roots of a sport, and baseball has always been the beneficiary of every hackpiece glorifying the bucolic, elegiac nature of the National Pastime and its confrontation with the cold realities of our corrupt society.

Screw that. It's a game that's played for our entertainment, to the pecuniary benefit of a few. Great athletes bend the rules, sometimes illegally, but always for the purpose of obtaining a competitive advantage; to that extent, stretching the envelope is what separates the star from the journeyman. I am no more shocked that so many of the game's stars were on the "Juice," the "Cream" and/or the "Clear" than I am at finding out that the models in the Victoria's Secret catalogue have all had plastic surgery, mostly performed during their teen years, in order to create an ideal "look" that's entirely unnatural for women. I wouldn't inject steroids or HGH into my body for a million dollars (or, at least not without the supervision of a licensed physician), but I really don't care if another adult makes a different decision, and I will no more hesitate to follow a sport than I suspect a woman would hesitate to purchase a camisole because Giselle has fake boobs.

Of course, if the overlords of the sport don't wish for the game to become a spectacle of angry, musclebound sluggers with receding hairlines and shrinking genitalia, they are more than free to impose whatever punishments they can for such transgressions, and negotiate with the Players Union any tests through the collective bargaining mechanism. I have zero sympathy for any of the active players exposed this week, all of whom had a chance to refute the charges, but decided to stonewall the investigators instead. They have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and I have a First Amendment right as a citizen to draw whatever conclusions I want from said silence. If, like Roger Clemens, they feel aggrieved that their good names have been slandered, well, to quote the wee lad Will Poulter from School of Comedy, "croi me a forking river !!!"

But don't ask to me feel ashamed that I felt electrified every time Eric Gagne came into the game for the Dodgers in the middle of this decade. As far as I'm concerned, performance-enhancing drugs in the context of team sports are no different than college athletes receiving under-the-table payments from boosters, or immigrants crossing over the border without a visa to feed their families. If you get caught, you should pay the penalty, but I'm not going to lose a minute of sleep over it. [link via Matt Welch]

December 14, 2007

Ban the Filibuster: What Yglesias said. As I noted two years ago, the best time to have done this was at the time then-Majority Leader Frist was threatening to abolish the practice in the context of judicial nominations, and had he been successful, the precedent to completely eliminate it would have been firmly established by now. But the Dems blinked, and short of some unlikely gains in the 2008 election, it is unlikely we will see the practice end.

December 13, 2007

When its HOF inductees next year include Madonna and Leonard Cohen, it's perhaps relevant to ask whether the term "rock and roll" has any real meaning anymore. But why quibble; the Hall had already inducted those noted rock stars Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell, and the DC-5 finally made it, apparently after having been fleeced last year. Enjoy:

Say it ain't so, Glenallen: The complete Mitchell Report on the use of the juice by major league baseball players, here. The list of players start on page 145.

My initial thought: it will be impossible to keep McGwire and Bonds out of the Hall of Fame, while allowing Roger Clemons in, after today. Since so many players are named, and since the former Democratic Majority Leader did a pretty effective job at spelling out the damning circumstantial case he had against the players who were named, and since the lack of cooperation from the Players Union indicates that the players named are only the tip of the iceberg (for example, neither Sammy Sosa nor Mike Piazza, among others, were named in the report), it's likely that the sheer numbers of suspected miscreants will dilute the anger against all of them, including the aforementioned Bonds. This will be an issue that will continue to be much more important among sportswriters than fans, much like college athletes getting paid under the table.

December 12, 2007

Hillary's the One: Sometimes I wish the former First Lady had kept to her initial inclination back in the mid-60's and stayed a standard-issue, downstate Illinois Republican. She certainly seems to share many of Tricky Dick's predilections.

December 11, 2007

Why not?

To the barricades !!!
TalkLeft has a useful summary up on the reaction to Barack Obama's apostacy on the High Priest of the Progressive Sanhedrin, Paul Krugman. He's a good columnist, and one of our most effective cheerleaders, and I'm certainly not going to quibble about his specific critiques of the Senator's health care plan; as a supporter of single payer, I think all of the prospective nominees' plans are crappy, but are redeemed only by the fact that they are potentially less crappy than the status quo.

But one of the things I used to love about Bill Clinton was his ring savvy. He could punch like Marciano when necessary, but also play use the four corners of the ring like Ali. After a generation of weak liberals going back to 1968, having a ruthless and cunning S.O.B. as the party's nominee was refreshing. And it wasn't just the "Sista Souljah" moment, either; turning the Gennifer Flowers story back on the accuser (thanks, Stuttering John) and executing Rickey Ray Rector let voters know that this wasn't Mike Dukakis. Clinton had a sense of what the public wanted, and he knew that it was more important that Rector was a cold-blooded cop killer before he became a drooling idiot, and that most voters secretly admire lotharios, particularly those who get away with it.

I have the impression that Obama may have those same qualities. He is now, for all intents and purposes, the Democratic frontrunner, which in this political climate makes him the person most likely to be our next President. He has quite ably turned aside the first counterattacks from the Clinton campaign, and in particular a whispering campaign by her minions about an alleged scandal. The lefty blogosphere is full of potential Sista Souljahs; the unmediated nature of this type of journalism all but invites wackjobs, and those will be easy pickin's for a liberal politician to disassociate himself from the crazies.

And in this instance, he's taken advantage of one of the big weaknesses of Paul Krugman, Big Foot Columnist: his academic need to nuance his arguments about political issues. Ezra Klein and Digby are right, at least to this extent: the Senator is basically demagoguing Mr. Krugman's disagreement on the issue of mandates. But as Clinton showed in 1992 and 1996, and again during the Starr-Lewinsky Affair, a politician who effectively triangulates against his own party can be especially ruthless when it comes to battling the other side. Mastering the rhetorical feints of the other side is a devastating tactic when it comes to the general election. So Mr. Krugman (and the lefty blogosphere) have to suck it up on this one and take one for the team.

December 10, 2007

Some vintage SDQ to lead you into that good night:

Of course, Hef dancing with Agent 99 at the end is what makes the whole thing work....
I am so seeing this:

December 09, 2007

The Smythe Primary: The first Presidential candidate who promises to treat the actions of Bush, Cheney, et al., as war crimes will win my support. Doesn't matter if it's Obama or McCain, Kucinich or Paul; the mere hint that the next Justice Department will investigate and prosecute these bastards (or, in the event of a last-second pardon spree, extradite said bastards to the Hague) will be enough to get me manning a phone bank or walking a precinct. Considering how compromised the Democratic leadership in Congress is, I have no confidence that mere oversight is sufficient to purge this stain from our country.

December 08, 2007

In honor of his final week in LA, here's a rare clip of a very young Matt Welch.

December 07, 2007

Our Tax Dollars at Work: While the 9/11 planners were able to travel under the FBI's radar, it's good to know where Hoover's Boys were really concerned--that international terrorist, Barry Bonds:
The government's priorities were on stark display in October when lead Internal Revenue Service BALCO investigator Jeff Novitzky—a man who, according to a damning May 2004 Playboy magazine profile, had lobbied various federal agencies for years to launch a steroids sting, "always with Bonds as the lure"—squeezed a plea deal out of track and field superstar Marion Jones. "To extract her confession," the New York Times wrote in a mostly flattering profile of Novitzky last month, "he used the leverage of a more serious charge from an unrelated check-fraud scheme." Getting Jones to weepily admit in public that she'd been lying all along about steroids, it seems, was more important than ferreting out her role in "a scheme to defraud numerous banks out of millions of dollars by laundering stolen, altered and counterfeit checks."
--Matt Welch, Reason.

The use of a felony check-kiting charge to induce a confession out of Marion Jones, who it should be remembered, had never failed a drug test, will always taint the veracity of her mea culpa and surrender of her Olympic records. Since her "confession" is the only supporting evidence against her, there is nothing that will prevent her from retracting it a few years down the line

There has always been more than a hint of racism in the investigation surrounding Bonds, and the rather trivial nature of the convictions so far secured in the BALCO trials indicates indicates that Welch's basic charge, that the government has been more focused on the "public shaming of athletes" than the prosecution of actual crimes, is true. And as we saw during the interminable investigation of President Clinton's relationship with an intern, that really isn't a proper purpose for government.
Mitt Romney, on people of faith, this week:
"I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims."
Pro football Hall-of-Famer Reggie White, before the Wisconsin State Legislature, in 1998:
"Homosexuality is a decision, it's not a race," White said. "People from all different ethnic backgrounds live in this lifestyle. But people from all different ethnic backgrounds also are liars and cheaters and malicious and back-stabbing." White said he has thought about why God created different races. Each race has certain gifts, he said.

Blacks are gifted at worship and celebration, White said. "If you go to a black church, you see people jumping up and down because they really get into it," he said.

Whites are good at organization, White said. "You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature, and you know how to tap into money," he said.

"Hispanics were gifted in family structure, and you can see a Hispanic person, and they can put 20, 30 people in one home."

The Japanese and other Asians are inventive, and "can turn a television into a watch," White said. Indians are gifted in spirituality, he said.

"When you put all of that together, guess what it makes: It forms a complete image of God," White said.

December 04, 2007

Damn those sock puppets !!!

And with no obvious props, either....
I'm usually a big fan of Senator Boxer, at least when she's voting the progressive line and not bloviating before whatever committee she's sitting on, but this is pretty weak. Putting the ideology of an appellate nominee under close scrutiny is appropriate, since the nature of the caseload before those courts entails understanding that there is almost always more than one "right answer" to the matter before the court. It's a lesson every lawyer learns in law school, then must perfect on the second day of the bar exam when attempting to puzzle out the day-long section of the test known as the Multistate; the interpretation of the law does not typically lend itself to "yes or no" answers. Contrary to what the current Chief Justice said at his confirmation hearings, deciding what the Constitution means is not the same thing as determining whether a pitch hits the outside corner of the plate.

But James Rogan is not being nominated for the 9th Circuit or the Supreme Court. He's being nominated for a spot on the District Court. In other words, he's been pegged to sit as a trial judge on the federal court, just as he has spent the last couple years as a trial judge in the state court. Whether someone is a good or bad trial judge has almost nothing to do with what his opinions are on, say, abortion or affirmative action, since those issues almost never come up in the lawsuits that are before the court. His ability to maintain an efficient calendar, to show the proper respect to the attorneys who regularly appear before him, to assist the parties in resolving their matters without the expense and hassle of a trial, to guide the jury panel in correctly interpreting the law, and, of course, to apply the facts before the court correctly to the law: that is what trial judges do.

Whether Rogan feels Roe v. Wade was correctly decided is utterly worthless in determining if he should sit on the U.S. District Court. Even if Rogan thought that decision was the most wrongheaded court ruling since Bush v. Gore or Plessy v. Ferguson, he couldn't do a freakin' thing about it. Unlike an appellate judge, who all too often finds the answer he wants first, then looks to the law to provide him his justification, a trial judge is limited to what the facts of the case are, to the remedies the parties are actually seeking, and often enough, the ruling of the jury.

And as it turns out, Rogan's abortion and environmental positions were just a pretext all along; today's Washington Post notes that Senator Boxer still carries a grudge against the former Congressman for his role as a prosecutor in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, even though Rogan has since become BFF's with the former President and future President. Which, of course, means that the impeachment is probably itself a pretext, with her opposition being more geared to thwarting the career of a potential rival in 2010.
What exactly is a member of the Christian Right doing working for a Democratic Senator in the first place?

December 03, 2007

Pete Rose and Mark McGwire are apparently too disreputable to earn election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the Veterans Committee today opened the doors to this guy. From 1990:

Bowie K. Kuhn, the former Commissioner of Baseball, is said to be somewhere in Florida, but not for spring training. In fact, a New York bank and several of his former law partners charged that he was hiding from the bankruptcy of the defunct law firm that bore his name.

Mr. Kuhn was a partner in the firm Myerson & Kuhn, which filed for bankruptcy in late December. As such, he is liable for $3.1 million in loans that Marine Midland Bank made to the firm in 1988 and 1989, along with other firm debts.

In court papers filed Tuesday, Marine Midland charged that in the last two weeks Mr. Kuhn, seeking to place his property out of the bank's reach, sold his home in Ridgewood, N.J., and bought another one in Marsh Landing, Fla. Florida law does not allow residences there to be seized in bankruptcy proceedings.

The former Commissioner and Harvey D. Myerson, a New York corporate lawyer, formed Myerson & Kuhn to great fanfare in 1988. But after a dispute with Shearson Lehman Hutton and internal disagreements among the partners, the firm collapsed late last year, and Mr. Kuhn hastily headed South.

He has remained unreachable ever since. At various times, he was said to have been in St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and, most recently, Sanibel Island. ''I've been unable to get in touch with him since December,'' Mr. Myerson said yesterday. ''I can't get a telephone number for him, or address, or anything.''

Since then, "pulling a Kuhn" (ie., putting your assets into the purchase of a home in a state with an unlimited homestead exemption) has become a nifty way for the super-rich to avoid their judgment creditors; OJ and Kenneth Lay, among others, also took advantage of the loophole. Marvin Miller, who actually changed not only baseball, but sports in every country on the planet for the better by his aggressive advocacy on behalf of the Players Association, was once again shut out.

December 02, 2007

Correct me if I'm wrong, but can a real-life dictator actually "lose" an election? That seems to be a contradiction in terms....
TNR Retracts Beauchamp Story ? Not exactly, although they do say they can no longer attest to the veracity of the stories, largely because the Army has tightened the screws on their writer and he's no longer cooperating. The whole tawdry story, with gay porn actors and Yellow Elephants moonlighting as "milbloggers" and neocon magazines allowing the wife of the subject to participate in the factchecking of her husband's stories, is depressing enough, since there doesn't seem to be any dispute (even with the Army officer who investigated the matter) that the events in question happened. But the New Republic does deserve some credit for not standing by a story that they could no longer back up with 100% certainty, a big difference between the standards of the traditional media and the blogosphere.
Sex on the City: Doesn't it feel good to come up with a name for a scandal without using the "-gate" suffix?
The Brett Favre of the Blogosphere scores another T.D.: The LA Times will never be the same. Congrats, Tony.

November 30, 2007

Media Matters does much praiseworthy work in examining many of the conservative biases of traditional media outlets, and any partisan Democrat has to love any outlet that works the ref as aggressively as they do; it's work as a purely propogandistic website is invaluable. And the crude attacks on MMA for being a George Soros front are little more than recycled bits of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that were stale when Henry Ford was publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

But sometimes they jump the shark a little with some of their more anally-retentive criticisms, such as this, where they take the media to task for praising Gov. Huckabee's clever "evasion" of a WWJD question at the debate earlier this week. I use scare quotes, because I'm not sure that the new GOP frontrunner's response was an "evasion," since one of the few things known about the historical Jesus is that he did not pursue worldly power. The ways of Caesar, after all, are different than the ways of God. Hidden beneath Huckabee's answer is an admission that Christ would not support the death penalty, and that as a political leader, the governor cannot always follow strict Christian theology. Liberals, of all people, should celebrate the nuance of his answer, since it indicates that if, heaven forbid, he should win next year, we won't have another Christianist conservative in the White House.

But even assuming that it was an "evasion," so what? Debate questions aren't meant to be answered with a series of detailed policy positions. They're part of a ritual, an elaborate dance by which the voter can see if a candidate can think on this feet and not merely explain any unpopular positions he might have, but win voters over to his side. "Evasion" is the whole point; if Michael Dukakis had responded emotively to the question about the death penalty in the second debate with Bush rather than actually answering the question, he might have won the 1988 race. Since Media Matters is not going to post any diatribes in the event Clinton, Obama, or any other Democrat successfully avoid giving answers in the real debates next fall, it just looks petty for them to do so here.

November 29, 2007

Two weeks ago, I noted that the New Yorker had featured an article about my brother Jim and his all-ages club in downtown L.A., The Smell. The writer, Sasha Frere-Jones, has also posted a series of photos about the joint on his blog, one of which features the Bro in all his glory. Enjoy !!!

November 28, 2007

Rock on, Cleveland:

November 27, 2007

The controversy about the author's atheism aside, isn't the reason The Golden Compass is likely to bomb is that it has too convoluted a plot to appeal to anyone other than the actual readers of the books? Say what you will about "theistic" stories like the Narnia Chronicles or The Lord of the Rings, or, for that matter, the Harry Potter series, those plots were relatively straight-forward battles between obvious good (ie., kids, dwarves and other little people) and absolute evil (Lord Sauron, Voldemort, Tilda Swinton) that translate well to the rigid formulas of cinematic entertainment. Can you imagine an uninitiated adult trying to figure out what "dust" is or what the significance of "daemons" are?

This looks like it might be another Dune trainwreck....
Local Blogger Joins Beltway Elite: Congrats to Matt Welch for becoming a Sabbath Gasbag-in-Training. LA's loss....

November 26, 2007

Headline of the Year:
"Bush Meets Al Gore; Effect on Permafrost Unknown"
--Washington Post, 11-27-07
Shorter Robert Lipsyte: Too many Negroes play college sports.
When Good Scientists Go Bad:
I will close with a word on Watson. He is not really a racial scientist to any significant degree, he just expressed a point of view that I think is false and destructive. No one deserves to be punished for expressing a point of view, but there is another consideration here. Watson is a legitimately respected and famous person on the basis of his great scientific accomplishments and the awards they have won for him, but those accomplishments don’t have very much to do with racial differences in intelligence, except that both domains involve the concept of “genes” in a very general way. It is safe to say that he does not know anything more about the subject than anyone writing here. He is, of course, still entitled to his opinion, but famous scientists and intellectuals have some responsibility not to use their fame in the service of dangerous ideas that are ultimately outside their real expertise. Watson got in trouble for casually stating poorly informed opinions about a deeply serious subject. He is still the great scientist he always was, and I admired the apparent sincerity of his apology, but he deserved most of the criticism he got.
"Watson," of course, is James Watson, the Nobel Laureate and the funnier half of the comedy team of Watson & Crick. It's an important point to understand, that many important scientific breakthroughs come from people who hold ridiculous views on other subjects, and/or have drawn reckless conclusions about the ramifications of their legitimate findings, and that said opinions can in no way discredit their other discoveries. [link via TPM]

November 24, 2007

G'day, mate: It probably hurts to lead your party when it's voted out of office, but to be the Prime Minister, and lose your seat to boot...John Howard, btw, is the same guy who opined last winter that a Barack Obama victory next year would be a victory for Al Qaeda, only to have the junior Senator from Illinois completely ream him the next day.
Reminscent of early Python, both literally and figuratively, I suppose....

Michael Kinsley returns to form here, with a post about what sort of "experience" is relevant toward the Presidency. On Hillary Clinton:
But in fact, being the president's spouse has got to be very helpful for a future president. It's like an eight-year "Take Your Daughter to Work" Day. Laura Bush, as far as we know, has made no important policy decisions during her husband's presidency, but she has witnessed many, and must have a better understanding of how the presidency works than all but half a dozen people in the world. One of those half dozen is Hillary Clinton, who saw it all—well, she apparently missed one key moment—and shared in all the big decisions. Every first lady is promoted as her husband's key adviser, closest confidant, blah blah blah, but in the case of the Clintons, it seems to be true. Pillow talk is good experience.
On the junior Senator from Illinois:
Obama also has valuable experience apart from elected office, and he also has to be careful about how he uses it. That is his experience as a black man in America, and also his experience as what you might call a "world man"—Kenyan father, American mother, four formative years living in Indonesia, more years in the ethnic stew of Hawaii, middle name of Hussein, and so on—in an increasingly globalized world. Our current president had barely been outside the country when elected. His efforts to make up for this through repeated proclamations of palship with every foreign leader who parades through Washington have been an embarrassment. Obama's interesting upbringing would serve us well if he were president, both in terms of the understanding he would bring to issues of America's role in the world (the term "foreign policy" sounds increasingly anachronistic), and in terms of how the world views America. Hillary Clinton mocks Obama's claims that four years growing up in Indonesia constitute useful world-affairs experience. But they do.
On what it all means:
Warren Buffett likes to say, when people tell him they've learned from experience, that the trick is to learn from other people's experience. George W. Bush will leave behind a rich compost heap of experience for his successor to sort through and learn from.

November 19, 2007

A replay you'll probably see a hundred times before you die:

Be honest: until yesterday, did any of you know the rule about what would happen if the ball carommed off the goal post extension and back over the crossbar?

November 16, 2007

Waterboarding, or the "water cure," has been with us since the Inquisition, and has always been regarded as a particularly heinous and cruel form of torture. If you don't believe me, perhaps this state supreme court decision from the 1920's which overturned a murder conviction might give you pause:

The state offered the testimony above set forth, also testimony of confessions made by the appellant, Fisher. When the testimony was offered the witnesses tendered testified that the confessions were free and voluntary. No objections were offered to this testimony at that time, but subsequently the defendant, after the state had rested, introduced the sheriff, who testified that, he was sent for one night to come and receive a confession of the appellant in the jail; that he went there for that purpose; that when he reached the jail he found a number of parties in the jail; that they had the appellant down upon the floor, tied, and were administering the water cure, a specie of torture well known to the bench and bar of the country. The sheriff testified that he told these people not to hurt the appellant, and that the process was new to him as he witnessed it being administered to the appellant.

Several persons were introduced by the appellant who testified as to the presence of the parties in the jail and the administering of the water cure to Fisher and others jointly charged with the offense with him. The defendant also introduced a witness by the name of Hicks Ellis, who testified that he was in the party which administered the water cure to the appellant, and secured the confession thereby.


We are satisfied that the court erred in receiving the confessions under the circumstances disclosed in this record. The Constitution of the state provides in section 26, among other things, that “the accused shall not be compelled to give evidence against himself.” This guaranty is violated whenever a confession is illegally extorted from a person accused of crime. In White v. State, 129 Miss. 182, 91 So. 903, 24 A. L. R. 699, the court, in the first syllabus of that case, held:

Confessions induced by fear, though not aroused by spoken threats, are nevertheless involuntary, because the fear which takes away the freedom may arise solely from the conditions and circumstances surrounding the confessor.”
That case, in the methods resorted to to procure the confession, is a good deal like the one before us. There an ignorant negro boy was arrested, brought to the scene of a horrible murder, and after he was released by the authorities fell into the hands of infuriated citizens, who took him into a store building where the bloody corpse lay and a crowd of armed men were assembled, to obtain a confession. The boy confessed to one of the men, and then his hands were tied behind him, he was placed upon the floor, and a white man stood upon his body and administered to him the water cure, which consisted of pouring water into his nose. The court held that this confession was unlawfully obtained, and was therefore involuntary. It also held, in the third syllabus of the case, that:
Where confessions were obtained at the scene of the murder by threats, duress, and physical violence, it was error to refuse to allow defendant's counsel to introduce testimony showing a connection between such involuntary confessions, and another confession to some of the same parties subsequently made at the jail to show that the same influence obtained in the latter confession rendering it involuntary.”

The bleeding heart judges who made that ruling, incidentally, were the members of the Mississippi Supreme Court. Eighty years later, a practice that was deemed too barbaric to justify even in the deepest part of Dixie, at a time when lynching was still a daily part of life in that state and much of the membership of the judiciary had ties to the Ku Klux Klan, is now a confirmed practice of the United States of America, something the President and the Attorney General will not say is torture. [link via Hit&Run]

November 15, 2007

Fighting Islamofascism: The Home Front

As Congress debates setting conditions on continuing to fund a seemingly open-ended commitment to propping up the Iraqi government, it's important to realize that our brave men and women must sometimes fight the same battle at home, as we have come to learn the last two Saturdays:
"It's important to realize that our young men have been fighting pitched battles against religious fanatics who have been brainwashed into a culture that seeks to destroy all other ways of life," Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun said Monday. "That's just the way Notre Dame football is, the way it's always been. You can't reason with people like that. You destroy them as completely, remorselessly, and quickly as you can."

"Naturally, the young men of our service academy will find the situation infinitely more complex when they're deployed to Iraq," Navy head coach Paul Johnson added. "Compare football to war all you want, but unlike when you go into South Bend, winning in Baghdad means winning the hearts and minds of the people, not pursuing some sort of scorched-earth policy."
From The Onion, natch.

November 14, 2007

In 1988, perhaps even more important than the "Willie Horton" controversy* in electing the first George Bush to the Presidency was a flap over his opponent, Michael Dukakis, vetoing a law that would have forced school children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then-Governor Dukakis rightly pointed out that such a law was flagrantly unconstitutional, scoring points with the converted but failing to understand that such a rationale had no spin potential whatsoever, and in fact made him seem weak for putting Warren Court procedural tenets above compelling grade schoolers to recite patriotic and religious doggerel like automatons.

Fast-forward twenty years, and the same thing is coming out of Hillary Clinton's camp today regarding John Edwards' promise that he will seek to strip members of Congress of their health care privileges unless they pass a comparable bill for all Americans. Even if the "27th Amendment" to the Constitution can be considered a "real" amendment, what difference does it make in terms of framing the agenda for the next President? It's a political winner, for the same reasons that the Pledge issue was the turning point for Vice President Bush in '88.

If Congress fails to act, the membership will have a toxic issue on their hands, and Edwards, as President, will have the bully pulpit to ream them for their inaction. And considering that if Edwards wins the Presidency, it will be highly likely that the next session of Congress will have an even larger Democratic majority, doing nothing on the issue will send a public signal that our legislators, Democrat and Republican alike, are under the thumbs of the special interests. [link via Kausfiles]

*Scare quotes used to remind the reader that there was no such person as "Willie Horton," other than the retired outfielder for the Detroit Tigers; the furlowed rapist's name was William Horton, and received the dimunitive nickname only after Ailes, Atwater and crew went to work not-so-subtly reminding Americans that the convict in question was, like the more famous baseball player, black.
U.S.A. !!! U.S.A. !!! First the Dixie Chicks; now this.

November 13, 2007

Impeach Kent !! Appears the Manny Real of Texas is an a bit of hot water. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

November 12, 2007

Sweet Smell of Success: That would be my bro Jim, who's profiled this week in the New Yorker, in a story about the All-Ages club he runs in downtown L.A., The Smell. This month's Vanity Fair also has a blurb about the club, as part of its run-down on the local music scene.

November 10, 2007

One of my links in the previous post was to a Matt Stoller commentary entitled "Bush Dogs Move to Block Mortgage Reform." "Bush Dog," for those of you not hip to "netroots" lingo, is a term used by bloggers to describe the so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats whose opposition to the policies of the Bush Administration has been rather tepid, to say the least. However problematic I find the position of these conservative Democrats to be on its merits, Stoller's headline is misleading, at least based on the contents of the letter.

As I noted before, there are three provisions to the bill currently before the Judiciary Committee. The bill will permit the bankruptcy court to readjust home loans based on the actual value of the home, not on the total payoff balance of the outstanding mortgages, so that all loans which are above the current appraised value of the home are treated as "unsecured" debts, which can be forgiven in a Chapter 13 plan. It will also allow the payoff of the secured debt on homes to exceed five years, and it will waive the requirement that Chapter 13 filers who are seeking to save their home receive pre-petition credit counseling.

The first two provisions clearly involve a reform of the mortgage system as it has existed for hundreds of years, to reflect the modern reality of ARM's as well as to treat home mortgages the same way the bankruptcy courts treat second homes, investment and rental properties, commercial developments and family farms. The third provision, concerning credit counseling, is the only one that would overturn a portion of the controversial 2005 law (known as BACPA, or by the less elegant name my fellow practitioners have given it, BARF). I happen to believe that the requirement should be dumped altogether; I have yet to see a single instance, either in my practice or in the practice of a fellow attorney, where a credit counseling session led a prospective debtor away from filing bankruptcy. Obviously, a credit counseling service depends on the referrals from consumer attorneys to survive, and a service that actually proposed something that kept a debtor from using our services would cease to receive business from our end.

But opposition to ending that requirement is clearly not the same thing as "blocking" mortgage reform, since it isn't not a mortgage issue; it's a convenience issue for filers. Many people who file Chapter 13's do so at the last minute, so having to speak with a credit counselor before filing can be very difficult. But the courts are divided as to whether the failure to take a class before filing necessitates a dismissal, and even if the case is dismissed, a debtor can turn around and file a second time without too much trouble.

If the "Bush Dogs" are sincere that their only reason for opposition is to not tinker with the BARF Act so soon after passage, then I don't see this letter as problematic in the slightest. Certainly, there's no need to hold up the provisions that constitute real mortgage reform just to get rid of the silly debt counseling requirement.

November 09, 2007

Reason will not lead to Solution: When last we left the thorny subject of the current real estate implosion and its relation to bankruptcy law, the House of Representatives was considering legislation that would relax the current draconian restrictions on homeowners in filing Chapter 13 bankruptcies to stave off the Repo Man. The bill passed through sub-committee last month, and two weeks ago the Chief Economist for Moody's Corp. testified before the Judiciary Committee that one provision of the bill, which would permit the courts to modify the terms of a home mortgage, would save up to a half-million homes from being lost in foreclosure over the next year and a half.

This is such a sensible reform that I can hardly believe it has any chance of passing through Congress, let alone getting signed by the President. It would reamortize the secured amount of a home loan at the appraised value of the home, permitting homeowners to treat oversecured mortgages as unsecured, the same way owners of vacation homes and rental properties, of commercial real property, and family farmers can under the current law. It would also permit repayment plans that exceed the current five-year limit, and end the worthless requirement that debtors seek credit counseling as a precondition to filing a bankruptcy.

To those reforms I would add three others: raising the debt limit on Chapter 13 filings; eliminating the barrier that prevents homeowners from receiving discharges in Chapter 13 when they have filed a Chapter 7 within the last four years; and ending the presumption of abuse element. The current limits (just over a million dollars in secured debt, and just under $337,000 for unsecured debt) are particularly arbitrary for middle class homeowners, many of whom made the mistake of borrowing against the artificial rise in the value of their homes just before they needed hospitalization, or had a high judgment imposed against them or their business. The elimination of the 4-year barrier on Chapter 13 filings should be self-evident in this economy; many of the people who filed bankruptcies on the eve of YBK in October, 2005 also own homes, and not allowing them to save their homes would be unfair. And the presumption of abuse element, always the most controversial aspect of the 2005 law, forces many homeowners who simply wish to walk away from their property, into Chapter 13 (or its very expensive cousin, Chapter 11), benefiting no one, least of all the banks that are prevented from foreclosing by the automatic stay.*

But as I said, its chances for passage are dim, at least until after the 2008 election. Few Republicans in either house of Congress back the measure, and even if it gets out of the House, the likelihood that the Democrats could invoke cloture in the Senate, or even get a majority to support such reforms, is bleak. And by the time another session of Congress decides to act, the devastation to the economy that will no doubt be caused by the upcoming landslide of foreclosure sales will have already occurred.

*Its stated purpose, to discourage filings by middle and upper class debtors, has failed miserably; in the Central District of California, less than one percent of all affected cases get dismissed, in spite of all the time and paperwork the statute imposes.

UPDATE: Thanx to the good folks at Winds of Change for cross-posting this.

November 08, 2007

YBK [Fin]: Wow, who saw this coming? Oh, wait....

November 07, 2007

Virginia Republicans, who had flogged the immigration issue as their wedge to maintain control of the state legislature, went down to a decisive defeat this evening, following the same trend as states like Colorado and Arizona in 2006. Mr. Kaus hasn't commented yet, but I'm certain that eventually we're going to see this anti-immigrant backlash he's been predicting manifest itself at the polls somewhere. Utah, anyone?

November 06, 2007

Assrocket Wins !!!!
Mickey Kaus interrupts his daily potshots at the Democratic contenders for the White House (apparently, he's now offended that an Edwards campaign commercial mentions his wife's struggle with cancer) to celebrate what he sees as a turning point in the debate about immigration:

It seems like only months ago we were told the immigration issue was splitting Republicans. Now it's E.J. Dionne wringing his hands about the
worry among Democrats that Republicans are ready to use impatience with illegal immigration to win back voters dissatisfied with the status quo.
What's changed? Well, President Bush--the main politician doing the GOP-splitting--is leaving the scene. The Republican electorate seems to have decisively turned against his illegal-immigrant semi-amnesty. Result: No more split! But the powerful GOP anti-legalization sentiment was obviously latent even in 2006. The MSM just chose not to notice.

Anti-legalization sentiment has also been manifestly latent among Democratic voters--including, but not limited to, unskilled workers whose wages have been suppressed by immigrant competition. What's odd, then, is that the Dems now aren't split. They're only terrified! The Dem presidential candidates who might appeal to anti-legalization opinion--and thereby split the party--all seem paralyzed by their desire not to offend Latinos.

Hmm. The last successful Democratic presidential candidate defied his party's dogma on a central issue (welfare) at the risk, it was thought, of offending key interest groups (blacks, liberals). Is there no current candidate willing to do the same on immigration? You'd think someone in the 2008 field would make the move, just for strategic reasons. ... John Edwards may be edging there: On ABC's This Week he came out against N.Y. Gov. Spitzer's illegal-immigrant driver's-license plan. But he only did it sotto voce, after prompting, and after emphasizing his support for "comprehensive" reform (i.e. legalization). ...


P.S.: Dionne eventually dismisses anti-illegal-immigration sentiment with a classic paleolib device:
Yet at a moment when the electorate is very angry, it's not surprising that some voters are channeling their discontent through the immigration issue. It's happened before in our history.
Of course, pre-Clinton Democrats also dismissed voter anger on the welfare issue as displaced discontent about economic stagnation (when they weren't dismissing it as plain old racism). Welfare recipients were "scapegoats," we were told. Then it turned out that the voters who were angry at welfare were angry at welfare. It's just possible, as Michael Barone suggests, that the voters who are angry at illegal immigration are angry at illegal immigration.
Clearly, Dionne is overreacting to another bogus Penn-Carville poll; as political analysts, they failed to predict the sweep that captured both houses of Congress last year (Carville famously tried to get Howard Dean fired after Election Night), and they are among the last denizens of the camp that believes the Democrats' achilles heel is their weak showing in the South (the majority position now being that the party's poor standing in the South is a manifestation of the party doing very well everywhere else). The fact is, polls on this issue are all over the place.

And no matter how far the future GOP nominee attempts to distance himself from the President, any voter anger at border control will rest on the fact that the Republican Party controls the Executive branch. Insofar as the Republican candidate who has the most momentum right now (ie., McCain) is the one most identified with immigration reform, and the candidate whose campaign is cratering (Thompson) is the only major contender who has most explicitly adopted the "deport the illegals" position, it is hardly a sure thing the party will be able to effectively use immigrant-bashing as a wedge issue next fall anyway. But even if the party nominates someone who speaks the Minutemen's language, it will be impossible to ignore the fact that George Bush is still President. They're stuck with him as the face of the party, and his is the record they have to run on. In spite of (or, perhaps, because of) the immigration issue, Congressional Democrats have one of their all-time biggest partisan edges over the GOP, according to yet another James Carville poll.

So if Republicans want to make immigrant-bashing work for them as a political issue, they will probably have to wait until 2010 (lord knows, it didn't help them much in 2006). And who knows, with a Democrat in the White House and large majorities in Congress, they might actually be able to make it work in their favor, assuming President Clinton signs into a law a real reform package in her first two years.

Concerning the second half of Kaus' post, I can only say that I know he's a shrewder observer of history than that passage would make it seem. To compare today's immigration issue with yesterday's welfare reform, one needs to first understand that the there were two different phases to the anti-welfare campaign. In the first phase, from 1966-1982, it was clearly appropriate for liberals to identify "voter anger on the welfare issue as displaced discontent about economic stagnation (when they weren't dismissing it as plain old racism)," because that's how the welfare issue was framed at the non-elite level: as lazy Negro Welfare Queens driving Cadillacs and buying malt liquor with food stamps. It was a way to appeal to anti-minority sentiment without sounding like James Eastland or Richard Russell.

But underneath the code, there was a sound policy rationale for reforming the welfare system, something that neolibs like Bill Clinton and Mickey Kaus understood. In order for that side to get a fair hearing, the bigots needed to be discredited first. It is for that reason that Ronald Reagan, whose political career rose on his ability to exploit white backlash, never made any serious attempt to end welfare once he reached the Presidency, while Bill Clinton, who barely raised the issue in 1992, not only could sign into law such a measure, but could increase the party's share of the African-American vote in the process.

And the same thing is true with immigration. Of course, there are people out there who hold sincere beliefs about how illegal immigration may or may not cause a 3% decline in wages among unskilled workers, or about how a lax system of border enforcement is leading to a corrosive decline in respect for our laws, or the impact it has on deterring terrorists from entering the country.

But that's not where the noise comes from on this issue. It comes from people like VDare and the Minutemen, from people who see Latino immigrants, legal and illegal, as a brown wave that threatens to initiate a reconquista of the West. Allowing people who use the word "illegal" as a noun to drive this debate is like letting American policy in the Middle East be shaped by men who use "Jew" as a verb. On an issue like this, the motivation for enacting a law has to be considered as important as the substance of the policy itself.

November 05, 2007

What he says:
Since Judge Mukasey’s situation is not unlike that facing Elliot Richardson when he was appointed Attorney General during Watergate, why should not the Senate Judiciary Committee similarly make it a quid pro quo for his confirmation that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate war crimes? Richardson was only confirmed when he agreed to appoint a special prosecutor, which, of course, he did. And when Nixon fired that prosecutor, Archibald Cox, it lead to his impeachment.

Before the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee completely cave-in to Bush, at minimum they should demand that Judge Mukasey appoint a special prosecutor to investigate if war crimes have been committed. If Mukasey refuses he should be rejected. This, indeed, should be a pre-condition to anyone filling the post of Attorney General under Bush.

If the Democrats in the Senate refuse to demand any such requirement, it will be act that should send chills down the spine of every thinking American.
--John Dean
Sometimes it just pays to know when to quit. Towards the end of an otherwise unremarkable critique of last week's media-mauling of the former First Lady, Digby emits this shriek:
Grab the Maalox kids because I can feel it in my gut. The bad breath and the sleepy eyes and the bedhead are all around us. Come 2009, if a Democrat wins the presidency, the Village press will finally wake up from its 8 year somnambulent drool and rediscover its "conscience" and its "professionalism." The Republicans will only have to breathe their character assassination lightly into the ether --- the Village gossips will do the rest. And if this new president resists in any way, a primal scream will build until he or she is forced to appoint a special counsel to investigate the "cover up" and grovel repeatedly in forced acts of contrition in response to manufactured GOP hissy fits and media hysteria. We're going forward into the past (and judging from the haircut nonsense we've already seen, it isn't confined to Clinton.)

Reforming politics isn't enough. Reforming the media is just as important. The current administration is so power mad, morally bankrupt and inept that their natural heir is a barking madman. (And some excellent reporting has been done to expose them.) But the Village kewl kidz and the queen bees who set the political agenda and dominate the coverage have never found any of that interesting or worthwhile. They care about their silly little shorthand parlor games that they think reveal politicians' "character." And their judgment of character is about as useful to the average voter as Brittney and K-Fed's.

They are a huge problem and I can't see how this country can pull out of this spiral until this is dealt with.
"Dealt with?" What did you have in mind, madam, waterboarding Maureen Dowd? Sending David Broder to Gitmo? Having a free press means taking the superficial with the substantive, the accurate with the inaccurate, and sometimes, even political figures we like are subject to scrutiny. Even unfair (and dishonest) scrutiny. It's called the First Amendment.

A veiled threat about "dealing with" heretical journalists has more than the whiff of fascism about it. If the Digby's of the world see elections as the first step towards the Great Day of Reckoning with the Evil Forces who have been in our way, perhaps they deserve to be marginalized. The hard work and heavy lifting involved in actually getting progressive policies enacted for the first time in forty years will require courting and compromising with said Evil Forces, due to the rather cumbersome structure of our government, and rhetoric about "reforming the media" is simply not high on our agenda.

November 04, 2007

An inspiring story in the New York Times, about a Daniel Ellsburg for our age.

November 02, 2007

Much of this week's controversy (now aborted, thanks to Senators Schumer and Feinstein) about the Attorney General-nominee's rather flaccid answers on the issue of whether waterboarding constitutes "torture" dwell on the legal predicament Mukasey would be placed in if he, as the chief law enforcement officer in the country, were to label the CIA's favorite tactic of the Spanish Inquisition as being beyond the pale. Now that he's not being forced, under penalty of Senate rejection, to take a position, the Bush Administration can go back to whatever it was doing before, and the "highly trained professionals," as the President calls them, need not worry about having to answer in a U.S. court for practicing their arts.

But another alternative exists, notwithstanding any evasions that may play out in the American judicial system. The Hague Convention has criminal courts precisely designed to investigate and punish activities, such as war crimes, torture, genocide and other breaches of the Geneva Conventions, acts that may have been perfectly legal in the countries they were committed in, and although the Bush Administration refused initially to recognize the court, any future President will not be so bound.

Sending Bush or Cheney to the docket at the Hague may be tough for the American public to swallow, no matter how unpopular they may be, but I'm not certain they same will hold true for the torturers and mercs whose activities are currently held to be beyond the reach of American justice. It would have the added advantage of any mooting any last-second pardon that may come out of the White House in 2009. A presidential candidate (Hillary? Edwards? Obama?) who expresses a willingness to sign on to the International Criminal Court, and waive any injunction on Americans being charged as defendants, will be taking a more relevant position on ensuring that a war such as this one never be sought again. [link via Matt Yglesias]

October 31, 2007

A Peculiar Institution: Thank God someone is finally telling the truth about that most unfairly maligned of all American institutions, slavery. Who knew it wasn't "genocidal?"

October 29, 2007

A few weeks back I noted how the ugly and racist use of the term "illegals" to describe a class of human beings was becoming increasingly routine, even in mainstream organs such as USA Today. Lawrence Downes makes a similar observation in the Sunday NY Times:
I am a human pileup of illegality. I am an illegal driver and an illegal parker and even an illegal walker, having at various times stretched or broken various laws and regulations that govern those parts of life. The offenses were trivial, and I feel sure I could endure the punishments — penalties and fines — and get on with my life. Nobody would deny me the chance to rehabilitate myself. Look at Martha Stewart, illegal stock trader, and George Steinbrenner, illegal campaign donor, to name two illegals whose crimes exceeded mine.

Good thing I am not an illegal immigrant. There is no way out of that trap. It’s the crime you can’t make amends for. Nothing short of deportation will free you from it, such is the mood of the country today. And that is a problem.

America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of it stems from the word “illegal.” It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions. Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Used as an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people, it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it is detestable.


So people who want to enact sensible immigration policies to help everybody — to make the roads safer, as Gov. Eliot Spitzer would with his driver’s license plan, or to allow immigrants’ children to go to college or serve in the military — face the inevitable incredulity and outrage. How dare you! They’re illegal.

Meanwhile, out on the edges of the debate — edges that are coming closer to the mainstream every day — bigots pour all their loathing of Spanish-speaking people into the word. Rant about “illegals” — call them congenital criminals, lepers, thieves, unclean — and people will nod and applaud. They will send money to your Web site and heed your calls to deluge lawmakers with phone calls and faxes. Your TV ratings will go way up.

This is not only ugly, it is counterproductive, paralyzing any effort toward immigration reform. Comprehensive legislation in Congress and sensible policies at the state and local level have all been stymied and will be forever, as long as anything positive can be branded as “amnesty for illegals.”

We are stuck with a bogus, deceptive strategy — a 700-mile fence on a 2,000-mile border to stop a fraction of border crossers who are only 60 percent of the problem anyway, and scattershot raids to capture a few thousand members of a group of 12 million.
My solution to the problem, of course, is to deport anyone who uses, as a noun, the word "illegal," preferably to a country that I'm sure they would fit in more comfortably, like Iran or Burma. In the meantime, we keep the immigrants, legal, illegal or indifferent., and witness a better America.